Great teaching resources!

I recently learned about a fantastic site called CourseSource, and I’d like to share a bit about what I found. According to the site, CourseSource is “an open-access journal of peer-reviewed teaching resources for undergraduate biological sciences.” Perhaps you are thinking, “Oh no, I don’t have time to keep up with yet another journal about biology education!” But CourseSource is different from CBE-Life Science Education and others in that niche.

Who doesn't need more high-quality resources to help make learning productive and fun? (Image source:

Who doesn’t need more high-quality resources to help make learning productive and fun? (Image source:

I love CBE-Life Science Education, but I tend to get bogged down in the methods and statistical analysis; sometimes I’m just looking for a good idea. CourseSource fills that need. According to the introductory video on the home page, CourseSource is “a journal that publishes scholarly teaching resources rather than a journal that publishes biology education research results.” In other words, authors don’t have to provide evidence that the specific activity actually increases learning. For those who just want a well-organized, quick-and-dirty list of ideas for active learning exercises, that is great news.

The site is organized by course. Along the left side of the home page you’ll find an alphabetical list that includes Anatomy-Physiology, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Ecology, Evolution, Introductory Biology, Microbiology, Plant Biology, and several other topics. When you click on a course, resources are supposed to be organized by learning objectives contributed by relevant professional organizations. For many subjects, however, the learning objectives are still to come; for others, the learning objectives are there but they aren’t matched to many materials.

Until the site is populated with more learning objectives, I think it’s better to just click on “Search.” When I clicked on “Introductory Biology” I found 14 resources covering a wide range of topic areas. It is also possible to search by article type, course level, Blooms level, Vision and Change Core Competencies or Core Concepts, and quite a few other criteria.

I tried one of the CourseSource activities, the Four-Minute Summary, when I gave a workshop on teaching evolution earlier this year. The beauty of this activity is that it is a fast, highly efficient way to stimulate student discussions about course material. Students get into groups of four, with each student assigned a number from 1-4. The instructor then “[projects] a list of 4 questions/statements.  Each question/statement is numbered 1-4, and students are expected to answer the question or respond to the statement that is associated with their number. … For example, student #1 will explain the answer to question #1.  Then, student #2 will talk about question #2.  This process continues to student #4.” The instructor keeps time as each student takes 1 minute to answer; the group then moves on to the next person.

In case you’re curious, here were the questions I used in the evolution workshop:

  1. Explain why this statement is inaccurate: “The butterflies saw a need to evolve in order to fit their new environment.”
  2. One hundred years ago, a fungal population was well adapted to a specific temperature and humidity. However, since then, the climate has changed. What could happen to the population? Explain.
  3. Is the following statement true or false? Explain. “Evolution is a random process.”
  4. If given enough time, will evolution produce a perfect species? Why or why not?

I was quite satisfied with the results. More importantly, I love this activity because it is so easy to adapt to any topic in any class, regardless of the teaching approach. Genius! Thank you, Sara A. Wyse of Bethel University, for taking the time to contribute that idea to CourseSource.

This entry was posted in Active learning and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Great teaching resources!

  1. mwindelspecht says:

    This is a great resource – thanks for sharing!!

  2. Pingback: Boost your evolution IQ: An evolution misconceptions game | Teaching nonmajors biology

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